If you're currently in your 20s or 30s, enjoying good health, glowing skin and free-spirited fun, you’re probably thinking “Why would I need to think about perimenopause now?”
Sure, it may seem light years away. But as a health coach who helps women with hormonal imbalances, I know that the sooner you nurture your health, the better off you'll be when perimenopause arrives.
Perimenopause is the naturally occurring transition between fertility and menopause. It’s a long period in a woman’s life where her ovaries slow down and her body starts to shift, even if those changes are barely perceptible. Perimenopause isn’t a diagnosis, a disease or something you need to fear. It’s a journey of change, and it can last up to 10 years, sometimes beginning as early as the mid-30s.
Wildly fluctuating hormone levels are typically the hallmark of perimenopause and it’s what gives rise to its many symptoms — from hot flashes to mood swings.
But the good news is that if you focus on your health now and keep these tips in mind, you can help minimize potential problems later on:
1. Manage stress and sugar levels.
Adrenals are the glands that produce cortisol, a stress hormone. However, in menopause, the adrenals take over hormone production from the ovaries, which go into retirement. Too much stress (and sugar) equals too much cortisol. And if your adrenals have been over-recruited to produce cortisol in your 20s and 30s, they won’t be able to maintain optimal hormone levels in menopause.
You can help ensure lifelong adrenal health by minimizing your sugar intake now, and practicing stress management techniques like yoga, meditation and gratitude practices.
2. Cut back on the cocktails.
Alcohol is the ultimate sugar buzz — and as we know, anything that raises blood sugar could increase cortisol. Remember, overproduction of cortisol stresses the adrenal glands. You also metabolize alcohol less efficiently as you age.
In other words, if you want to rock your perimenopause years, it might be time to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol.
3. Find meaningful movement.
Exercise is undoubtedly a big part of a healthy life. It's never too late to start, but the sooner you find something that doesn’t feel like work and stick to it, the healthier you’ll be during perimenopause.
Also, realize that it’s OK to try different types of exercise until you find something you like — whether it's yoga, tennis or hiking. There's no need to become an elite athlete to reap the benefits of exercise.
4. Make sure you're getting good fats, fiber and protein.
You need nutrition on a cellular level in order to build your hormones and neurotransmitters. If you subsist on soda, chips and fast food, your body isn't going to have what it needs to carry out its advanced functions, like proper hormone signaling. Sure, it will keep you functioning, but not at an optimal level.
At every meal, make sure you're getting healthy fats — think avocado, coconut oil, salmon, ghee or pastured butter — fiber and quality protein.